Trustworthy Mac Tools for Defense Against The Dark Arts (a.k.a. Data Loss)

Dr. Mac's Rants & Raves
Episode #136


As I promised last week, here's how I do it (with "it" being backing up several terabytes of data).

My first line of defense against data loss is Time Machine, partly 'cause it's baked into OS X and partly 'cause it's simple to set up and makes it easy to retrieve mistakenly-deleted files or earlier versions of documents. It’s also the only backup solution I know that lets you recover individual Mail messages, Contact Cards, photos, and more.

If you’re not going to use other backup software, I implore you to buy at least one external hard disk larger than your boot disk. The first time you connect it, your Mac should ask you if you want to it for Time Machine backups. You do. If your Mac doesn't ask, just open the Time Machine System Preferences pane, click Add or Remove Backup Disk, add your new disk, and you're done.

If you already have one or more Time Machine backup disks enabled, you'll see a dialog asking if you want to stop backing up to the old disk or start backing up to both. Choose both and Time Machine rotates between the disks—disk 1 now; disk 2 in an hour; disk 1 in two hours; and disk 2 in three hours; and so on. Let Time Machine finish several backups, then eject one of your two Time Machine backup disks, disconnect it from your Mac, and take it elsewhere for safekeeping. Bring it home periodically, update it, then store it (or the other disk) offsite again.  

That regimen may be sufficient for most of you, but I believe in redundancy and Murphy’s law, so I like to have at least four backups of every file in my universe (and several more backups if you include stuff that lives in the cloud).

I also try to avoid a single point of failure (I’m looking at you, Time Machine), which is why I’ve always used third-party backup programs alongside Time Machine.

So after Time Machine, my second line of defense is CrashPlan, an excellent utility I’ve been using for years. While it’s user interface is still kind of ugly, it’s the best and most cost-effective backup utility I've ever found.

CrashPlan is kind of ugly but extremely powerful and reliable. 

I mean, you can’t beat the price— it's free for backups to local drives and trusted remote computers, and just $5 a month for unlimited backups to CrashPlan’s cloud. CrashPlan backs up my Home folder to a local hard disk continuously and to the cloud every thirty minutes; I consider those backups two dependable layers of protection that cost me just $60 a year.

Finally, because fixing and restoring a crashed disk can take hours, and I usually have deadlines in mere minutes, I use Carbon Copy Cloner ($39.99); free trial available) to create a bootable clone of my boot disk, running every day at 2AM. That way, if something bad happens, I can grab the clone and plug it into almost any Mac in the world and be back to work in minutes rather than hours or days.

Carbon Copy Cloner is a lean, mean cloning machine... 

Remember what I said about redundancy? I also use Dropbox, iCloud Photo Library, Flickr Uploader, Google Photos Backup, and Amazon Cloud (yes, all of them), to store, backup, and synchronize various files, folders, and photos among all of my Apple devices, which also creates additional backup copies of many key files.

At the end of the day, I’m not suggesting everyone needs this much redundancy (maybe not even me). But if you’re not backing up, I promise you’re going to be very sorry on the day your disk dies (as it surely will someday). 

And that's all he wrote!